Congratulations to the 26 members of the 2020 cohort of the Northern New Mexico Master Naturalist Program for successfully completing this year’s course. We wish them luck and hope they enjoy their volunteer projects!
This year has looked somewhat different from our usual weekly in-person class gatherings with weekend group field trips, and has instead included virtual classes held twice a week over Zoom and self-guided field trips throughout the fall. However, despite the challenges this year has presented, the Master Naturalist Program hosted its biggest class yet since its beginning three years ago. The 2020 cohort will now begin their service projects this spring with Santa Fe County Open Spaces, Audubon Southwest, and Santa Fe Botanical Garden, with planned projects including planting and monitoring piñon seeds and serving on a committee to help Santa Fe become an official Xerces Society designated Bee City.
The success that we had with our virtual program is a testament to the adaptability of the community members who participated this year. Despite the challenges of holding conversations over Zoom, they were able to form connections with their classmates and we had many animated discussions about the topics of the course. A favorite was our Ranching and Farming week which, despite the topic being one of the issues on which participants had the most strongly held and varying opinions, led to some of the greatest conversations. We had an enlightening lecture on grassland conservation from biologists with Audubon Southwest followed by a lively but respectful discussion session. Although we weren’t able to coordinate any group field trips, we still had some meaningful field learning experiences. Everyone loved the opportunity to ask questions of a geologist with the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources both before and after the self-guided geology field trip. A few participants even ran into each other at the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve and shared tips about plant identification.
We finished the year with a virtual holiday get-together over Zoom to introduce the members of the newly completed class to our experienced Master Naturalists. Seasoned Master Naturalists had fun telling the newbies about the volunteer projects they have been working on, and the new Master Naturalists got to learn more about the locations where they will be doing their projects in the spring.